“See the change?”

He saw the change.

“A careful look at these will show that the ones on the left are quite different from the ones on the right.”

That was obvious.

“There are shining suns and rainbows in the earlier pictures, but he stopped painting them somewhere in the middle, and the paintings on the right are different altogether.”

She was right. Adam had stopped painting rainbows. Some of his later pictures showed creatures with horns and other monsters where family members would have been in the earlier works. Adam was four, so ‘works’ was perhaps a grand word for these pictures, but it was undeniable that a change of some kind had occurred. The most recent pictures were muted, their colours dull, and the house resembled a prison. It was certainly a shut up box. Sealed. He wondered what that meant.

“I think it would be best if Adam had someone to talk to. You know, a professional. Do you know what I’m talking about, Mr. Hornery?” The teacher was earnest.

“Yes, I know what you mean,” he said. “And I think you’re right.”


Last year the family had moved into a new house, which had a swimming pool. It was brand new house and it was big enough for all of them. The pool was big enough for all of them too – mum, dad, Adam and his sister, and their dog Rusty. The Hornerys used to say that they had the best house on the street. They loved their new house and their pool and their big TV in the TV room. Having a TV room was a bit of a luxury, and friends and relatives were jealous, but it was such fun and the whole family would gather in there to watch movies together. They watched cartoons mostly, as these were the best thing for Adam, and Adam liked The Lion King best. His mum and dad knew all the songs and they all sang along.

When Adam’s sister Julie, who had already started school, had holidays the family would stay in their holiday house on the beach up the coast. They would swim every day. When they got sunburnt mum would put special cream on their shoulders to cool them down and remind them to put more sunblock on. They went fishing and jumped off rocks into the rock pool and dad would cook a barbecue every night, and they would eat sausages and bread and salad while the mosquitoes buzzed around nearby. The sausages had special barbecue dust on them – that’s what dad called it – and the kids loved their sausages with blackened cinders. They loved the way dad cooked at the barbecue. Mum and dad would eat steak with their sausages, as they were grown up and grown ups eat more than kids, but dad would allow Adam to cut a piece of his steak to eat, as Adam was a growing boy. Julie didn’t like steak so she didn’t have any.

Dad and mum promised the kids a trip to America next year, if they were good. The kids tried to be good. They tried so very hard. The lure of America was so strong: everything they had ever wanted to do and see was there and they would often talk about it. Adam wanted to meet Goofy – Goofy was his favourite – and Julie wanted to visit Universal Studios. Adam would close his eyes tight and lie down with his head on a pillow and allow the images to appear, all the strange colours and shapes in his head behind his eyes, and he would imagine meeting Goofy and seeing all the sights on an endlessly sunny American day. Mum and dad saw Adam doing this once, and they guessed what it was about, and they thought it was very cute. He was still a little boy.


But talk of America dried up. Julie would occasionally bring up the subject, but one of her parents would firmly close it. Next year became one day or later or even maybe. The children knew that maybe wasn’t good. But they knew not to ask, “Why?” They didn’t ask any more after the time their dad ordered them to get out of the swimming pool and go up to their rooms. He was so angry that day.

They learnt not to ask why about a lot of things. Uncles, friends of their dad, would come over for lunch and still be there at the house when it was bedtime. Strangers began arriving at a late hour and waking up Julie, who was a light sleeper, as they left in the early hours of the morning. Mum stopped packing Julie’s lunch and instead gave her money to get something from the tuckshop. Sometimes she forgot to give Julie some money and so she had nothing for lunch at all. The pre-school teacher Miss Smith noticed Adam’s hair was unbrushed on occasion and he was becoming withdrawn. Mr. Hornery stopped saying hello to pre-school staff when he dropped off Adam on the way to his work and instead could be seen leaving the boy on the street each morning.


Holidays were no longer spent up the coast. That house was sold. Mum stayed increasingly at aunty Peg’s place and a kind of moss grew in the swimming pool.

And Adam, who was a prodigious artistic talent, sought to document the whole, unravelling situation with bright paints and a coarse brush. His project was a painful one, but he had real material now. Something juicy to get his teeth into. He used the pain and the confusion. And people were recognising his talent. His teacher saw what he was trying to say. She spoke to him about his work often. And now his dad could see too. Adam was finding an audience.

Published in: on August 2, 2012 at 8:22 pm  Leave a Comment  

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